EA Stock Jumps as Apex Legends Looks Like a Formidable Fortnite Competitor

(Bloomberg) -- Electronic Arts Inc. surged to its biggest gain since 2014 after the video-game maker said its latest release attracted 10 million users in 72 hours.

Apex Legends is the latest free-to-play battle royale game from Electronic Arts. The positive commentary and user traction garnered online has outpaced the early success of Epic Games Inc.’s Fortnite, a smash hit that has had publishers scrambling to catch up.

EA Stock Jumps as Apex Legends Looks Like a Formidable Fortnite Competitor

The "trading reaction this morning exemplifies how hit driven video gaming stocks remain, even if cloud gaming and subscription services, including outside party, should eventually be major positives if not fully transformative," Buckingham Research’s Matthew Harrigan wrote in a note to clients.

Harrigan applauds the pace at which the game has won over players, however, he notes conditions on Apex Legends activity may be oversold, and the victory is still "dwarfed" by Fortnite’s base of approximately 200 million users.

Electronic Arts rallied to its biggest gain in nearly five years as the stock rose 16 percent Friday. Shares of Activision Blizzard Inc. and GameStop Corp. were all lower, while Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. edged higher to close the day.

Diving Deeper

"This is really the first time we’ve seen someone go toe-to-toe" with Fortnite, though it has already saturated the market, Nick Licouris, an investment adviser covering video games at Gerber Kawasaki Inc., a wealth and investment management firm, said by phone.

Apex Legends -- which Licouris credits as the first free-to-play battle royale from a AAA publisher -- has "just taken over on Twitch," attracting the most viewers on the live-streaming video platform. "I’ve never seen this much spark of enthusiasm from a lot of gamers with a new game that comes out -- especially a battle royale game," he said.

Apex Legends’ success was due in part to a lack of any technical glitches upon introduction. Respawn Entertainment LLC, a game development studio owned by EA, largely benefited from its strategy to release Apex Legends the same day the game was announced. The surprise release led some of the most popular streamers on Twitch to play the game right away, Licouris says.

The passion for video games has shifted with the evolution of E-sports. And Licouris believes Twitch is part of the reason "we’ve seen this big change in how people interact" with them.

While Fortnite remains the behemoth in battle royale, given its cross-platform abilities, Electronic Arts has "all the right pieces in place. But now it’s about executing and making sure they don’t lose this" advantage, Licouris said.

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